The classic Florida tourist attraction, Cypress Gardens, is gone forever, replaced by a Legoland in 2011.
The Pope family opened Cypress Gardens near Winter Haven in 1936 as a showcase for what would eventually number over 8,000 varieties of plants. Dick Pope, recognized as the Father of Florida Tourism, and his wife Julie (the "Green Thumb" and the brains behind many CG innovations) added electric boats in 1938 to tour the tropical canals.
But Cypress Gardens' two signature elements -- water ski shows and Southern Belles -- developed out of necessity. In 1940, to distract visitors near the entrance from looking at a huge, dead vine killed in a cold snap, Mrs. Pope instructed a female worker to don an Antebellum dress and flirt with visitors. The tradition of beautiful Belles wandering the grounds grew...
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